2nd Day of the Great Backyard Bird Count

I got to sleep in a tiny bit today, and got up around 6:30 so I could get out of the house by 7:00 and drive over to the Cache Creek Nature Preserve.  I got there just as they opened the gates.  Usually, they’re not open on weekends, and their weekday hours are so weird (9:00 am to 4:00 pm) that no one can get over there if they’re working, so… I took advantage of the fact that today they were opening the preserve for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  They didn’t have much of a turnout — I saw 4 other people besides the preserve staff – and I don’t like going with a group to look for birds because the groups are always so loud.  So, I took off by myself before the group finished figuring out how to use the binoculars.

I was VERY shocked by how “ugly” their wetland area looks.  It was almost empty!  (See my previous visit to the preserve.)  The water level was BELOW the footings of the pilings on their boardwalk, so there was just naked cement and gravel showing at the base of it.

I went through their riparian area which doesn’t hold a candle to the one at the American River Bend Park.  The path is exceedingly short, very muddy and was blocked throughout by fallen trees and accumulated debris.  I did see some interesting fungus along the trail, but even that was kind of “messy”.

For the Great Backyard Bird Count, I saw: Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Savanna Sparrows and lots of other sparrows, Tree Swallows, Killdeer, Robins, Finches, Black Phoebes, Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flickers, a Belted Kingfisher, Starlings, a female Anna’s Hummingbird, etc.  A new bird for me was a pair of Great-Tailed Grackles.  I’ve seen loads of Common Grackles all around the area, but had never seen this species before.  They look like other Grackles, but their tails are extra-long, and they have a wide range of calls, many of them quite beautiful.  I got a tiny bit of video of the male giving out some clear bell-like tones.

I also heard the deep resonant hoot of a Great Horned Owl and looked for him in the trees.  I was able to get one shot of him before he took off and disappeared into the trees.  I wasn’t sure of the quality of the one photos until I got home and had a chance to look at it on the monitor.  The owl was looking right at me; its huge eyes bright yellow.  So neat!  I also saw one of the beavers and some of the mule deer.

There were a lot of good tracks on the trail, and I got some photos of them.  The trail was so muddy in places, though, that it was difficult to walk on, and once the tread on the soles of my shoes got full of the muck, I lost all traction.  My feet slipped right out from under me and I fell backwards.  Hit with my butt and my back, so I didn’t bang my head. But my back and hips ached a lot after that, so I decided to head back to the car.  Altogether, I walked for about 2 ½ hours.